16' penobscot solo paddling configuratio


I’m looking for some advice on installing a center seat in a 16’ penobscot. I want the seat for two reasons: 1, for solo paddling and 2, for my 5 y.o. daughter when she, my wife and I go out. We/I mostly paddle local streams and the occasional lake, nothing too technical, but I’d like to improve my technique with this boat. My local shop recommended flipping the yoke and adding hardware to make it removable and adding the center seat just fore of the yoke, paddling facing aft with the yoke removed when soloing. My question is, is this the best option and if so how far from the center of the boat should the middle of the center seat be for the most efficient solo paddling? Thanks in advance for any insight, I don’t want to start drilling holes then decide it’s not right later on.

The Penobscot is not an efficient solo
but I think your question is akin to “what is the best I can do”

Can you kneel? Solo paddling using a kneeling thwart about 12-18 inches aft of the widest part of the boat allows you to tuck into one chine. The boat is heeled. You do not lean.

If you try and stay centered in the boat, every stroke is going to be a sweep stroke requiring a heroic j to undo the sweep you just had to do.

Otherwise I would just throw bunch of weight in the bow and assuming you have webbed seats sit int the bow seat backward.

Your dealer’s suggestion is not all wet. But to paddle efficiently you need a vertical stroke. How comfortable are you at sitting when the boat is heeled over so the gunwale is about three inches off the water?

The number
that usually comes up regarding solo seat placement is to put the leading edge of the seat about 4 inches aft of the center of the boat.

I routinely solo a Penobscot from the front seat facing aft with a bit of ballast in the “new” bow. If just you and the five year old go out the boat would be pretty well trimmed with her in the rear seat. With three in the boat you could put your daughter on the deck on a couple of boat cushions or buy a drop-in seat for her.


I guess I think it’d be a good idea to try the seat 4 inches off center as you said Peter. That way there should still be enough room for me to sit in the bow seat backwards if I try soloing in the center seat and don’t like it. For now I think I’ll just take the yoke off (2 screws) when attempting soloing and hold off on the removable hardware until I’m sure the center seat works for me, returning the hardware if not. With the seat off center I can still use the yoke (backwards) when needed.

I think my daughter will get a kick out of having her own seat so even if I decide it’s not for me I’m not out much (35 bucks). Then I’ll just flip the yoke and install it permanently as before.

I appreciate the placement guideline.

Kneeling thwart
In the spirit of “I’m not out anything for trying”, let’s say the center seat position is, as kayamedic suggests, too wide to use effectively solo. I’d certainly be up for trying a kneeling thwart but have no experience with them. I’m guessing I’d be replacing the existing rear thwart? They look simple to make out of some chunks of oak and a trip to the hardward store. Is there a guideline for fitting them for height from the deck, width, position fore and aft, etc? Could I be really cheap and try it out with a gardener kneeling pad at first or is it pretty doable without a pad?

Maybe not, but a friend twice won the
downriver cruising class on the Nantahala, paddling a Penobscot 16. But then, he’s kind of a machine. Also won the one and only downriver open canoe race on the middle Ocoee, in a Blue Hole OCA. Also not an efficient solo craft, but it inaugurated many ww runs in the SE.

Solo paddling a Penobscot 16 depends on height and reach. It’s easy for my friend and me, but we’re quite tall.

I would build a removable minicell pedestal, placed close behind the portage yoke, stuffed tightly underneath. With proper planning, the pedestal will not interfere with use of the portage yoke. No reason to remove or reverse the yoke. If the boat doesn’t balance on the yoke, usually a paddle stuffed in one end of the boat will achieve balance.

Is the Penobscot a symmetrical hull?

– Last Updated: Sep-29-12 2:59 AM EST –

As to the kneeling thwart, that wouldn't serve the purpose of a child's seat very well. Nor are they particularly comfortable for long days solo paddling because you can't sit on them with your feet out front for switch paddling.

I would get a wide cane seat and mount it astern of midships. In this way, you will be paddling solo with the bow properly forward, which will avoid the whole issue of whether the hull is symmetrical. You will also have more room between the center seat and the stern seat than you would between the center seat and the bow seat if you put the center seat forward of midships.

The wide cane seat allows you to solo paddle sitting in the center of the seat or to slide over near the gunwale for Canadian style heeled solo paddling. It also allows two kids to sit on the mid seat, or one kid to slide over closer to the gunwale to pick water lilies or whatever.

You will have to remove the center thwart if you are positioning the center seat just 4" behind center on either side. That's okay if you you are content to use a clamp-on portage thwart, which I always was.

Otherwise, you can put the center seat about 12 inches behind the center thwart and leave the center thwart in position. This is a little far back for "perfect" empty boat solo trim but still a much better trim than sitting in the bow seat backwards.

There are also removable center seats you can drop over the gunwales.

My favorite Penobscot picture…
…actually my only Penobscot picture.


It’s a 17’ boat running the Hill and Dale Rapid during the Westfield Downriver Race.

Anyway, Riverstrider has a removable center seat in his 16’ Explorer. He’s not particularly big, and doesn’t seem to have any trouble paddling it solo from the seat. You can see the seat (under his heals) in this picture


My understanding is that you want the front of your body at about the center of the boat which would put the seat about 8” to 10" rear of center. It looks like that is about what Riverstrider’s is.

Actually, maybe 8" to 10"
…is too much. That would probably be OK if you kneel, but would probably need to be closer if you sit. Someone else will probably chime in.

Soloing tandem canoe

I would suggest using removable kneeling saddle. One shop in UK produces those kneeling saddles:


Benefit of removable kneeling saddle is that you can freely change position of saddle seat.

I position kneeling saddle quite close to onside. So I can easily reach to water in my Keewaydin 16 canoe.

There is no entrapment risk with kneeling saddle and saddle is lighter than kneeling thwart. Hauling canoe is also easier if there is no kneeling thwart installed.


Might try

– Last Updated: Sep-29-12 1:02 PM EST –

going out with it using a pack (filled with something light) as a straddle bag. Just fill a garbage bag with styro peanuts or rags or whatever, double bag it, put it in the pack and kneel straddling it - the Becky Mason trick.

Then go out and find the bag placement where when you kneel straddling the bag the water gathers in puddles (you did remember to track some in on your feet, right?) around your knees to perhaps under your butt. The puddle should settle in about the same place fore and aft as where a sculling draw or pry moves the boat straight sideways without a change of heading.

Mark you butt position with a grease pencil and put the front of the new seat or your kneeling thwart there. (BTW, If you decide to make a kneeling thwart, make it a wide one, maybe 3 or 4 inches, like Bell's used to be. Tilt it forward. A narrow untilted kneeling thwart can become an instrument of torture at the end of a long day.)

Then move the portage yoke as (and if) necessary to allow you an easy exit without risk of foot entrapment in case of a swim. If it doesn't balance properly on the yoke, do as previously suggested - carry a paddle or strap your throw bag on something to bring it into balance for carrying.

Or you could just put a kneeling thwart in where the regular thwart now resides (as Nova Craft does, for instance. I think they place the thwarts for optimal hull strength, not paddling trim)and ballast as necessary with water bottles or camping stuff to get the trim right. Different boats require differing weights to trim. My Prospector needs quite a lot of weight to trim, but perhaps the Penobscot has less rocker and might require less ballast.

BTW, colors should be getting pretty good on the Kickapoo about now. Might want to do your trim experiments there... plenty of chances to see how she turns when heeled. :-)

Yes Symmetrical!
Yes the Penobscot 16 IS SYMMETRICAL so either end can be the bow with exactly same performance with same trim!

You could rig it as suggested…
…but then if you used it as a “third” seat for kids, it would likely be out of trim. Just mount the seat about 4" behind center. Use the removable yoke setup. It’s a cheap and easy mod.

Here’s mine (in the background)…


And a close-up of the removable yoke…


I don’t find it very hard to solo from the center seat, if I’m not in a hurry. It is easier, IMO, to kneel in the chine as Kayamedic described, but if your knees don’t like that or if you just want a break from it, the seat will work okay if you aren’t too small. A long kayak paddle makes it even easier.

I’ll chime in
Having said above that the number which is usually thrown out regarding seat placement is to put the leading edge 4" aft of center, I will also say that I prefer to set them further off center than that. This is because I like to have a light bow that I can trim with ballast. And, because the ballast is in front of me it is easy to adjust it as needed. I find that moving ballast around behind me is a tricky deal that leads to swimming. So, Eckilson is not far off with his suggestion of 8" to 10" in my opinion. Beware, this is opinion and not common wisdom in regard to seat placement.


Center Seat Penobscot - Recent Project
Not too long ago finished adding a center seat to my 16 footer. Got lots of good advice here.

My center seat is postioned 9 inches behind the center thwart - as mentioned adjusting trim by adding weight in front of you is much easier than the other way.

The center yoke thwart becomes a hinderance so you must deal with that.

My solution (suggested by a friend) was to remove the center thwart and replace it with 2 inch webbing to span the beam and 2 D-rings on the other side. Weave the webbing thru the D-rings and you have a temporary carry thwart. When not in use roll up the webbing and it is out of the way. I don’t portage so when I am by myself all I need the webbing to do is allow me to lift and carry the boat to the vehicle.

The removable wood yoke thwart option seemed problematic - storing the parts and trusting you don’t lose any of them on a trip was not attractive to me.

I added a foot brace for the center position afterwards.

Photos can be sent if you’re interested - I can’t post them here.

Saturday I installed the center seat so we could all go out for a paddle in the new (to us) boat. I installed it 4" off center in the bow as recommended which lets me use the yoke (backwards) and still leaves enough legroom for my daughter now and for the immediate future. She loved having her own seat btw.

Tomorrow I’m going to remove the yoke and try sitting in the center seat by myself and see how that goes.

I’d really like to try either a kneeling thwart or pedestal seat as suggested as well, there’s just one issue. There is a thwart about 18-20 inches aft of the yoke which may interfere with pedestal seat placement I think, we’ll see.

For now I may tinker around with kneeling and the homemade pedestal seat as time (and water level) allows and come up with a plan to implement over the winter.

Lots of great advice, instruction and ideas in this thread, thank you all.

penobscot solo
I have been solo paddling my 17 penobscot for years from the front seat facing the rear.

turned around like this the 5 year old and/ or a dry bag under the foward facing rear seat is just enough weight to stabilize. when the three of you go out just paddle in the regular tandem configuration and get a low folding canoe or beach chair for the little one

before you buy or drill, don’t overthink this, just turn the boat around

…another choice…fwiw

– Last Updated: Oct-02-12 7:46 PM EST –

With the P16's weight in Royalex and wider midships....I, myself with all of my ~180lbs, used to wind up sitting ~14-16" ahead of center... My J was extended a little more than it would be with a lighter composite, winding up just about dead flush with the hull at the max...and I used to get a lot more accelleration than I ever would in the standard aft of center. The max-width behind the paddler...after several years of standard positioning...going asymetrical, to a point, worked for me.

If you’re satisfied, fine, but
I wouldn’t be. Sitting backwards on the back edge of the bow seat is ok as an improvisation, but the more intensively you use the boat, the more important it is that you are firmly positioned and close to the center of the boat. See Big Spencer’s post below. If sitting near the center, one’s paddle reaches closer to the bow and the canoe needs less correction.